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Government urged to invest in active travel to usher in new era

Words: Huw Morris
Cycling / Shutterstock_181277675

Investment in active travel must enable structural and behavioural changes to become a permanent part of everyday life, say local authority directors.

The call by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) follows the government’s £250 million emergency active travel fund in May, prompting local authorities across England to install temporary infrastructure to enable more walking and cycling.

Councils have so far focused on locations with high footfall and narrow footways to enable social distancing. These have included reducing waiting times at pedestrian crossings, installing temporary roadworks and signage, and reallocating road space. 

In a policy paper on the issue, ADEPT explains that to “truly usher in’ the government’s “new era” and ensure active travel is here to stay, walking and cycling must be designed into the travel network to maintain the changes brought about by Covid-19.

ADEPT urges the government to empower local authorities to go further if it is serious about achieving net-zero and tackling climate change. It contends that successful measures must be made permanent and councils must be enabled to bring about structural change.

To do this, however, councils must be properly resourced with long-term capital and revenue funding to guarantee the delivery and continuing maintenance of active travel infrastructure created through local cycling and walking infrastructure plans, it adds.

“The concept of a ‘20-minute neighbourhood’ where people have everything they need – schools, shops, recreation and work – within a 20-minute walk is gaining traction across government,” said ADEPT transport board chair Mark Kemp.

“ADEPT members are ready to work with government to make this truly a ‘new era’, but to succeed, these changes can only be made at the local level, using local knowledge and securing the buy-in of communities through clear engagement. To do that, place directors must have the resources in place and the ability to lead.”

The policy paper is available on the ADEPT website.

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